24 October 2009

CIE in Turin: a soldier shatters his tooth, he files a report

Mimì sleeps on the bed, the farthest room in the blue section of the Centre for Identification and Expulsion (CIE) in Turin. He is 25 years old, but is barely audible when he speaks: "I'm not an animal, it is true we are illegal immigrants, but we are people, I have not done anything wrong, they should not have beat me up like this." He has been on a hunger strike for 13 days. He’s been imprisoned for the past four months. He is asking to be freed. And he is asking for justice. On September 13, 2009 he was beaten by two guards of the Alpine troops in the CIE of Turin. Before beginning his story he shows me his teeth. He’s missing a premolar. They shattered it with a punch in the mouth that night. The Turin Prosecutor is investigating the case. Because Mimì had the courage to report them.

His story begins in 2005, when he manages to land by sea in Sicily. After a few years around Italy, he gets a job at a gas station in Porcari, near Lucca. On 16 June 2009 the police stop him during a document inspection at the Porcari train station. From the police headquarters in Calabria they send him to the CIE of Lamezia Terme. He should have been released on August 16. But a week before that, on August 8, the security package comes into force, extending from two months to six months the limit of detention in the CIE. Against the new law, on August 14 a huge protest erupts the CIE of Calabria, which was ravaged. Mimì drinks a bottle of liquid soap and cuts his arms with a razor blade. He wants to be taken to hospital, but the only result he achieves is a transfer to the CIE of Turin.

According to his account, confirmed by his fellow inmates, on the evening of September 13, during the distribution of psychotropic drugs, Mimì is the last to be taken to the infirmary. Two soldiers come to take him. One is somewhat overweight, nicknamed Ciccio, and the other is thinner, with a Neapolitan accent. The minute they enter the hallway leading to the infirmery, away from prying eyes, one of the two kicks him from behind, while the other begins to beat him with a truncheon on his right shoulder and legs. A Red Cross worker, present at the scene, sneaks away without intervening. Panicking, Mimì runs inside the inspector’s office, and hides under the desk. He cries, and says "Stop! Stop!" But the two military men keep going. They kick him from both sides of the table. They strike his right knee, which has a steel plate and screws from a bad fracture suffered in a car accident in 2008. In the end they drag him up and sit him on the chair in front of the inspector on duty.

The inspector tells him to be good and to take the medicine. One of the soldiers slaps him with two hands on both ears, while Mimì continues to cry. Then they take him in the hallway. And the soldier gives him a plastic cup with the psychotropic drugs. Mimì claims that there was at least twice the therapy of drugs that he normally takes to sleep. At least 60 drops of Rivotril, he says. He refuses to drink. And then one of the soldiers puts on a leather glove and gives him a backhand to the mouth. A premolar tooth is split in half from the force of the blow. Mimì drinks the therapy and returns, limping, to his section.

The next day, after the effect of the drugs has worn off, he wakes up with severe pains. His roommates confirm his story. "He had bruises on his shoulder and legs." Mimì decides to press charges. His lawyer, Barbara Cattelan, remembers meeting him in the wheelchair, unable to walk from the blows he had taken. Mimì says that two days later one of the military offered him money to withdraw the charges. But he went on. The charges were filed September 25, 2009 and the investigation began. The charge, against unknown persons for the time being, is simple personal injury.

The soldiers risk a fine, at most. The elements in favour of Mimì are few. In addition to his version of events there is only a generic certificate from the Martini hospital emergency room, issued on September 16, 2009, which speaks of ‘blunt trauma to his right knee’ and ‘reported aggression’. The public prosecuter has heard Mimì and is identifying the two soldiers. In the meantime, however, there remains a high risk of Mimì’s expulsion.

He has been detained since June 18, 2009. A few days ago he received the notification of the extension of detention for another thirty days. At any moment he could be repatriated to Morocco. And the investigation would be shelved. Mimì knows this. And for this reason he has begun a hunger strike. Thirteen days now. No food, only water and coffee, cigarettes and psychotropic drugs. It is the only way to stay in Italy. Reduce yourself to near death and be released for health reasons. He spends his days bedridden. He has already lost 9 kilos. He now weighs 55 kilos.

He has not, however, stopped filling up on psychotropic drugs: 30 drops of Minias in the morning and 60 of Valium in the evening. These will not give him back the freedom this country has taken from him. Nor will they decrease the stigma of deportation, the return as a loser to Morocco, to his mother and younger siblings. However, doctors and psychologists in the CIE have found no other better remedies than this to support him.


translated by Camilla Gamba